Traffic Deaths Increased 9.3% During First Nine Months of 2015: NHTSA

The number of deaths associated with traffic accidents spiked almost 10% during the first nine months of 2015, prompting safety officials to search for new approaches to reduce the risk of human error in automobile accidents in the U.S. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced the concerning traffic death statistics on February 5, suggesting that unsafe habits such as as drunk, drowsy, and distracted driving may be contributing to the recent increase.

Compared to the first nine months of 2014, there was a 9.3% increase in traffic fatalities during the same period last year, which is the first significant rise in traffic deaths in over two decades, according to the agency, which indicates that deaths involving traffic accidents have been on a steady decline since 2000.

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The NHTSA released a prior update in December 2015, indicating that during the first six months of 2015 there was an 8.1% increase in deaths linked to traffic accidents, and these latest figures provide further evidence of the trend continuing during the next three months. It is widely assumed that an evaluation of pending data from the last three months of the 2015 calendar year, not included in these statistics, will also indicate a higher percentage of traffic related fatalities.

According to the safety administration, the last 25 years of tracking U.S. traffic related fatalities has shown a steady decrease in the numbers, with 2014 hitting a record low of only 32,675 traffic deaths, which the agency reflected as 1.07 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. However, data from the first nine months of 2015 shows there were 26,000 fatal accidents, compared to the 23,796 fatalities during the first nine months of 2014. According to the NHTSA, the new data suggests that after collecting fatality reports from all 12 months, there could be over a 10% increase in traffic deaths for 2015.

The NHTSA announced the increase in traffic fatalities just a week before it is set to host a series of regional summits in Sacramento, California, to examine unsafe behaviors and common human error that is believed to contribute to automobile deaths on a national scale. NHTSA studies over the last decade have shown that human error contributes to 94% of all automobile accidents, whether fatal or not.

NHTSA Administrator, Mark Rosekind, announced in the recent press release that the agency will push for new initiatives that will attempt to change bad driving habits that have shown to be persistent contributors to human error traffic fatalities such as drunk driving and failure to wear seatbelts. The summits, which will be held across the country over the coming months, are intended to gather ideas, engage new partners, and generate effective approaches to combat human behavioral issues that lead to roadway deaths.

Rosekind stated that there are several common behavioral habits that will be addressed at the summits including drunk, drugged, distracted, and drowsy driving, as well as speeding issues and failure to use seatbelts. The meetings will also focus their attention on new initiatives to protect vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, workers, and cyclists.

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